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J Contam Hydrol. 2005 Aug;78(4):327-42.

Heterogeneity of chlorinated hydrocarbon sorption properties in a sandy aquifer.

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  • 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, United States.


Hydraulic conductivity and sorption coefficients for chlorinated hydrocarbons (chloroform, carbon tetrachloride and tetrachloroethylene) were evaluated for 216 sediment samples collected across a 15 m transect and a 21 m depth interval in a contaminated aquifer near Schoolcraft, Michigan. Relationships between hydraulic conductivity, linear sorption partition coefficients, grain size classes, and spatial location were investigated using linear regression analysis and geostatistical techniques. Clear evidence of layering was found in sorption properties, hydraulic conductivity and grain sizes. Conductivity correlated well with grain size, as expected, but sorption varied inversely with grain size, contrary to some previous reports. No significant correlation was found between sorption properties and hydraulic conductivity. This is likely due to the unexpected presence of small amounts of highly sorptive coal-like solids, which dominate the sorption behavior but have little effect on conductivity. The results demonstrate that recent findings regarding the high sorption capacity of coal materials found in soils can exert a controlling influence on contaminant transport. Designers of in situ remediation systems should be cautioned that 1) it is not reasonable to assume that sorption capacity and hydraulic conductivity are related, 2) sorption capacity and hydraulic conductivity are critical measurements for contaminant site characterization and subsequent transport modeling, 3) estimating sorption capacity from organic carbon measurement may lead to greater errors than performing sorption isotherms, and 4) it is more important to characterize vertical heterogeneity rather than horizontal heterogeneity because both sorption and hydraulic conductivity are correlated across longer distances in the horizontal plane.

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